Logan Banks has known for a long while that eventually he would participate in an extended medical mission trip.
That time now is quickly approaching.
Banks, 34, formerly of Irondale but now living in Springfield, is in the process of preparing for a five-year mission trip to Burundi in eastern Africa.
He spoke about the upcoming journey during a recent service at First Baptist Church of Irondale.
A doctor of osteopathy (D.O.), Banks is giving up his practice, a teaching position and his salary for the mission trip. His wife, Julie, and the couple’s two children, Liam, 6, and Zeke, 4, will be accompanying him.
It is his faith that is propelling him forward.
“I’ve been given so much and just really feel like I should be giving back in some way,” he said, adding that on a previous mission trip the overwhelming need in the world came sharply into focus. “I feel called.”
He said he and his family are ready for the challenges ahead.
“I think that God has given us really just a supernatural peace about the whole process,” Banks said. “It’s a lot of planning and organizing and packing and logistics. There are times when it seems overwhelming, but we know that it’s what we’re supposed to do and we feel confident in that.”
Banks will be teaching African medical students at both Hope Africa University in the capital city of Bujumbura and at a remote rural hospital in the town of Kibuye, which is located a few hours outside of Bujumbura. At the hospital Banks will be working with students in a variety of departments including maternity and pediatrics.
He is hoping to leave later this month for missionary training in North Carolina. After that the plan is to move his family to France, where he will begin language classes in the fall.
Banks said he must be fluent in French by the time he reaches Burundi. It is the national language of the country, so he will be instructing students in French.
He does not have a background in the language. He will be studying French for nine months.
The family is expected to leave for Burundi at about this time next year.
Banks noted that the country has an average of only three doctors per 100,000 people and extremely high infant mortality and maternal mortality rates due to a lack of quality medical care.
“They’re just grossly underserved,” he said. “It’s really a medical crisis.”
The small doctor pool is due in part to limited opportunity. He said typically only the wealthy have the chance to pursue a medical career. Additionally, those who study medicine many times leave the country for training then opt not to return, Banks said.
One of the goals of the mission trip is to address that issue.
While in Burundi, he will be encouraging students to remain in the area once they have completed their course of study, to come at the profession as a calling, not as a way necessarily to become wealthy and lead a comfortable life.
“We’re going with the goal of training them in Africa and also modeling the servant leadership model,” Banks said. “We hope to inspire them to stay and go into the most rural communities where there is the most need.”
He views the medical profession as a personal calling, he said.
“I went into medicine knowing that I wasn’t going into medicine just for myself,” he said. “God wanted me to use my training to glorify Him.”
He expects that when his five-year term in Burundi comes to a close, he will return.
“We see ourselves going back again as long as things are stable and they still need our help,” he said.
Julie Banks will homeschool the couple’s two children while in Africa, teach dance and music classes to the children of other missionaries, and become involved in the women’s ministry at the local church.
Banks said the plan is to build a home near the hospital so he can walk to the facility each day. Construction will not begin until he and his family have arrived in Burundi. Until the house is constructed the family will live in an apartment.
Banks will not be paid for his work in Burundi.
As such, money to cover everything from the family’s travel and living expenses and the costs related to educating their young children to the expense involved in securing medical supplies must come from donations. Fundraising efforts currently are under way.
The trip is being organized through the nondenominational mission agency Serge, located in Philadelphia.
James River Church in Springfield is the local sponsoring church. The Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons (MAOPS) has agreed to help sponsor Banks as well.
According to MAOPS, Banks will be the first D.O. to serve a long-term appointment in Burundi. Besides being instructed in the basic sciences, D.O.’s are taught how the structure and function of the body are related, how to manipulate the body to improve function and how to use their hands to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal disease.
Banks is a 1998 graduate of West County High School. He currently teaches family medicine at CoxHealth Hospital in Springfield and has a medical practice.
Banks traveled to Kenya in 2010 for a six-month mission trip, during which he worked at a rural mission hospital. He also spent a couple of weeks in Nigeria during his second year of medical school and he has traveled to Bolivia to do mission work on two different occasions.
“It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time,” Banks said.